At Church with Obama

Barack Obama’s supposedly earth-shattering revelation that some Democrats believe in “an awesome God” leads me to this April Chicago Sun Times piece on Obama’s interesting religious background:

Obama describes his father, after whom he is named, as “agnostic.” His paternal grandfather was a Muslim. His mother, he says, was a Christian…When he was 6 years old, after his parents divorced, Obama moved with his mother and her new husband — a non-practicing Muslim — to Indonesia, where he lived until he was 10 and attended a Roman Catholic school.

…Obama is unapologetic in saying he has a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” As a sign of that relationship, he says, he walked down the aisle of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in response to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s altar call one Sunday morning about 16 years ago…These days, he says, he attends the 11 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity in the Brainerd neighborhood every week — or at least as many weeks as he is able. His pastor, Wright, has become a close confidant.

However:

“Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion,” he says. “I am a big believer in the separation of church and state…I am a great admirer of our founding charter and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root in this country.

“I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God’s mandate. I don’t think it’s healthy for public figures to wear religion on their sleeve as a means to insulate themselves from criticism, or dialogue with people who disagree with them.”

Trinity United Church of Christ describes itself as “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian”. Its mission statement notes that: “The fortunate who are among us combine forces with the less fortunate to become agents of change for God who is not pleased with America’s economic mal-distribution!” The church also adheres to “The Black Value System”, developed by an African-American Christian named Vallmer Jordan in 1981. I would like to find out more about this document, which, like Jordan himself, has very little web presence:

1. Commitment to God

2. Commitment to the Black Community

3. Commitment to the Black Family

4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education

5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence

6. Adherence to the Black Work Ethic

7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect

8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”

9. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired
skills available to the Black Community

10. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing acquired skills available for strengthening and supporting Black
institutions

11. Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System

12. Personal commitment to embracement of the Black Value System.

Jeremiah Wright has been the pastor since 1972. Profiles are available here and here, and an account of one of his services here. One of his congregants has helpfully made an Amazon list of his books.

4 Responses

  1. LaTonya Taylor wrote in Christianity Today that Trinity UCC once also attracted Oprah Winfrey as a member.
    Here’s a central paragraph from the story:

    Today Oprah’s relationship with Trinity and Jeremiah Wright seems strained. In a column for a recent issue of Black Collegian magazine, Wright mentioned Oprah as an example of African Americans who forget their roots in the church after finding success. “A lot of us do not even like the word faith anymore,” he wrote. “We prefer the more chic-sounding word, spirituality! We are caught up in an Oprah-generated mentality and a 12-step vocabulary that prevents us from using the very words and the very bridge that ‘brought us over!’ “

  2. 1. Commitment to Wotan
    2. Commitment to the Aryan Community

    3. Commitment to the Aryan Family

    4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education

    5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence

    6. Adherence to the Aryan Work Ethic

    7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect

    8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”

    9. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired skills available to the Aryan Community

    10. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing acquired skills available for strengthening and supporting Aryan institutions

    11. Pledge allegiance to all Aryan leadership who espouse and embrace the Aryan Value System

    12. Personal commitment to embracement of the Aryan Value System.

  3. […] (there are a number of US churches that cater to the needs of black Americans; Barack Obama is associated with one, to the outrage of conservatives). The senior pastor of Koinonia is Eric H. Jones, who is […]

  4. […] views (I wish I’d picked up on some of these when I wrote about Obama and Wright back in 2004!), and it was reasonable that Obama should have had to clarify the extent to which he identifies […]

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